THUD! Please tell me that's the bottom. Last night the Turner Gill era kicked off with an underwhelming and disappointing loss to the North Dakota State. No Ben Woodside didn't suit up for the Bison and no it wasn't a baseball game, the 6-3 loss was the season opener for the Kansas football team. A season opener that regardless of how good you think the Bison are or could be, should have been won.
Games against FCS schools are scheduled for two reasons. First and foremost, a win. You need six to get into a bowl and you can count one of these toward that six. Tough break, Kansas get's none this year. The second reason, a tune up. A FCS school is supposed to afford a team an opportunity to work out the kinks, iron out last minute changes and find the areas that need to be worked on. The only one of those goals that Kansas accomplished was finding plenty of work to do.
If there was one overwhelming theme on Saturday for Kansas, it was a lack of focus. The team look disorganized, unprepared and more like a team going through their first spring scrimmage than a group coming off a month of fall camp. For every positive there seemed to be two negatives. Two solid kick returns, two missed field goals. A stop defensively, an inept offense. Unfortunately that has to rest on the coaching.
The problems for Kansas are plenty and going player by player doesn't do anyone any good at this point. The reality is all you need to do to breakdown this game is talk big picture.
Offensively the gameplan lacked any creativity, and looked uninspired the majority of the game. There were moments where the play calling created misdirections and solid gains, but those were few and far between. For the most part it felt as if the Kansas staff believed they could flip the switch if things really got ugly, but unfortunately it didn't work.
From a personnel perspective the unit believed to be the strength of this group struggled in a big way. Running lanes were not consistent and at some of the worst possible moments, the pass coverage looked like a paper tiger.
On defense Kansas attacked and played fairly well from a statistical aspect. They gave the offense ample opportunity and did exactly what they should have against the Bison which is allow minimal yards and minimal points. The other positive is that they did in fact follow through with their promise to attack. It wasn't perfect or 100% effective, but they did their job.
The only odd part about the defensive side of the ball revolved around the personnel packages. Clearly the staff is still working through some position battles and unit substitutions on a series here and a series there was the result. It didn't seem to hurt the effectiveness so perhaps the depth is decent, but again this was a FCS opponent so it's not time to declare victory.
On special teams the Jayhawks looked good in areas and horrible in others. This game never should have come down to a potential field goal to tie, but a pair of misses proved costly. The return game had moments as did the kicking game, but at the end of the day the average starting field position for the Bison was roughly the 29, Kansas the 22. That's a loss in the head to head.
The strange thing about all of this is the fact that this team shouldn't look this poor. The Jayhawks had recruited well in recent years with the last staff and they should have talent. The offensive line returned a great deal of experience and was supposed to be a strength. The cupboard isn't bare and Kansas isn't as bad as it looked.
Still at the end of the day you are what the result says you are and for now the results don't bode well for Turner Gill and the Jayhawks. Based on tonight's performance all the prognosticators predicting a last place finish in the North would appear to be the smart ones, anyone ranking Kansas in the bottom of a Big 12 Power Rankings the logical thinkers.
The saying goes that things are never as good as they seem, but they are also never as bad as they seem. Today it seems bad, today it's easy to say this team doesn't win a game. But one thing is certain, it can only go up from here and with that I have just a hint of optimism left in my head. Time to get better in a hurry, Georgia Tech won't be as kind.